How To Make The Perfect Sandwich
What’s the perfect sandwich? Everyone’s got their own personal preferences, of course. Maybe you’re a “slather the whole thing in mayo and hope for the best” kind of person. Maybe you’re a “let’s throw some crisps in there and see what happens” kind of person. Maybe you’re even an “I don’t care what’s in it as long as it’s got a shitload of gherkins somewhere in its midst” kind of person. Sandwiches are one of the most perfect foods on the planet and I’m pretty sure that everyone is quite opinionated about what constitutes the perfect sandwich.
Personally, I think a sandwich has to got to have the right textural balance to be “perfect”. It needs to have a contrast between its softer elements and crunchier elements and be simultaneously wet but not-too-wet. Basically, I haven't got a clue what the perfect sandwich is until I’m halfway through it and find myself nodding my head in pure, bread-induced ecstasy.
To try and come up with a more official definition – one that a university student could quote in an essay as the OED's definition of a "perfect sandwich" – I asked some of the UK’s very best sandwich experts to give me their number one tip on making the perfect sandwich. If you follow all their sage wisdom, it’s very likely that you’ll have all the building blocks of an unbeatable sanger on your hands. You’ll never look at two slices of bread the same way ever again, MOB.
“What makes the perfect sandwich? For me, it's gotta be crunchy iceberg lettuce (I have a bit of an obsession with shredding it as finely as possible but this isn't essential) and good pickles! Slap a bit of English mustard and mayo on some good THICC slices of crusty white bread and now we're really talking. So, yeah... thick-sliced crusty bread, butter on BOTH slices, iceberg lettuce, pickles, English mustard, mayo.... what goes in between is totally up to you!”
Alex is the co-founder of Bando Belly.
Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng
“For starters, your sandwich has to be the right thickness, so it fits in the mouth. The bread also needs to be light. You want a filling that is constantly going to stay in-between the bread when you’re eating it, for instance. Chewy meat is a big no-no.”
Ana and Zijun are the creators of katsu sando concept TÓU.
"A friend of mine made a grilled cheese toastie at home the other day and she called me, confused, asking why her sandwich didn’t taste as good as the grilled cheese sandwich at Snackbar. I asked her how she made it – some sliced bread, two slices of cheese, and toasted it in some olive oil in a pan, and pressed it down with a spatula. The reason why a toastie is comfort food is because it’s supposed to be deeply unhealthy – it’s a treat. And with treats, more is more, never less. So think; thick-cut proper good bread, SLATHERED on the outside with mayo (Hellman’s is my personal fave) because that’s what makes it golden and crispy and still pillowy inside; a HUGE amount of freshly grated cheese (use the good shit – not that supermarket shit – my personal fave is Montgomery’s Cheddar from Neals Yard Dairy) because grated cheese you can pile up and it properly melts smoothly.
I also like throwing some cheese curds into the mix, to get that cheesy phone-wire effect when you bite into it, but it can be pretty tricky to get hold of so just add more grated cheese. Grill the sandwich, mayo-side down, in a warm skillet, and weigh it down with a heavy cast iron pot (put a sheet of baking paper in between the sandwich and the cast iron pot to prevent your sandwich from sticking). If that sounds like a faff, get a toastie machine. It’ll be the best £30 you’ll ever spend on Amazon."
Freddie is the founder of Snackbar.
“At my Sandwich Shop, we ask ourselves two questions: can I blend that up and mix it into mayonnaise, and how crunchy will that go when I throw it in the deep fat fryer? As long as there is enough mayo in your sandwich that its volume is faintly intimidating, you are going to be alright. And don’t forget the crunch, it’s the element most frequently missed when trying to make a really great sandwich."
Florence Mae Maglanoc
"For me, the best sandwich comes in a 50-50 bread to meat ratio and my top tip is that you must always make sure that you put enough sauce into your sandwich. What sauce? Well, garlic mayo is my personal favourite for a truly perfect sandwich."
Florence is the founder and owner of Panadera Bakery.
"Ultimately there are no absolutes when it comes to building a great sandwich. Texture is key and yet who doesn't appreciate the textureless simplicity of an egg or tuna mayo; structural integrity gets talked up a lot but surely we all enjoy the delicious scraps of fugitive filling that nestle in the wrapper after the bulk of the sandwich is done away with. Fundamentally, it's about understanding the ingredients you want to put in the sandwich, choosing the appropriate bread, and figuring out whether or not you're going for a Chanel-ish less-is-more approach or the far more fun more-is-more angle of attack that we generally prefer at S+D.
Our chicken sandwich has 10 components and through sheer bloody-mindedness, I think I've tried it without each component over the past couple of years and am always encouraged to find that it loses something in these instances. Each element is bringing something to the party. Conversely, our simplest sandwich, the egg salad, has just four components (not including the bread) – egg, miso mayonnaise, cress, truffle crisps; and I've tried it with a bunch of other things we have in the kitchen - mortadella, smoked tomatoes, bacon, sriracha, and it's always great but it's never as good as the simple original. I guess what I'm trying to say is to make a good sandwich you just need to use your loaf."
James Ramsden is the co-founder of Sons + Daughters.
"As with any food we would make, at Bodega Rita's we consider firstly flavour, it has to be delicious, consider seasoning, acidity, fat, sweetness and savoury earthiness and where those things are coming from in each bite. Then texture, how these things come into play in a bite. How it feels in your mouth and how it plays out as you chew and chomp.
We have always done pretty well when it comes to flavour, but we have become keenly aware that texture and structure may be the most important part. Bodega Rita's sandwiches are mostly influenced by the places I grew up, between here and the U.S. and it's helped me no end in having a benchmark to aim for.
The bread has to be structurally sound and stand up to handling and contain its filling while being both transported and eaten. It also has to have chew and the right crust. It's why we now make our own bread for our sandwiches/subs/hoagies/heroes/rolls/baps whatever you want to call them. I think we've developed a brilliant dough that does what we want it to do."
Gabriel is the chef and co-founder of food and drink collective Rita's.
"Obviously, you could say things like. "the bread has got to be right", otherwise it's a non-starter. And that is kinda true but, for me, the thing to make a perfect sandwich is to make it with no one in mind but yourself. A sandwich is a very personal thing in my mind, something you might think will make your sandwich class might make someone else pure retch. We do obviously aim our subs at the public, what we think they will like and be open to trying but at the very start of the ideas, it's one of us just randomly texting another saying what they just ate, or what they think would be class together and then we build the idea around that. Although I don't think we ever really put that much thought into them if I'm honest!
For me, the perfect sandwich comes from one spark of an idea – it could just be meat or cheese or whatever and then raiding your cupboards and fridge to see what you have to complement with that original thought. If you go out to the shops to buy some really specific stuff, I can't help but feel that you're gonna be disappointed. As if you've set the expectation level too high because you've gone to a load of effort. The real reward is in biting into that sandwich and finding that all your wild ideas were fucking bang on and that mixing some mad stuff you found in your cupboard was a total winner. Smothering cucumbers in Lao Gan Ma and vinegar and topping it off with some crisps, for example, made our steak sandwich 10 times better."
Matt Scott is one of the co-founders of Dom's Subs.